How are Hunger and Climate Linked? [Hint: Food Waste]

How can it be that 13% of the world’s people are hungry while 33% of food that’s produced isn’t available for consumption?  If that weren’t outrageous enough, consider that food not available for consumption generates 4.4 gigatons of CO2/year.  That makes “food waste” the world’s third largest Greenhouse Gas emitter, after China and the US.  What is going on!?

Though it turns out that food waste is an issue in both high- and low-income countries, the causes look starkly different, depending on where you live.  Yup, you probably guessed it.   In low-income nations, causes are mostly unintended and link closely to missing or poor infrastructure (e.g., storage or transportation networks).  Breakdowns typically happen early in the chain of activities from farm to table.  Contrast that to higher income nations where much of food waste is willful and happens much closer to table.  Whether it’s a retailer or consumer rejecting food because of its looks, or people not paying attention to what portion that can really eat or prepare, few experience much guilt when it comes to food waste.  Given the GHG implications, they ought to!

What do you see as the top reasons for food waste in your country?

What can be done??

[Further reading: Drawdown, pp.42-43]


Curt Newton's picture

An update in this morning's

An update in this morning's news, here reported by Inside Climate News:


On Wednesday [September 20], some of the world's biggest food manufacturers and retailers agreed they would try to simplify these labels for consumers and whittle them down to just two. The companies, which include Walmart, Kellogg's, Nestle, Unilever and Tesco, said they would make the changes by 2020.

"We realize that a big percentage of the food wasted comes at the household level—about 40 percent," said Ignacio Gavilan, sustainability director of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), the Paris-based network of the world's largest consumer goods companies. "Food labels are one of the reasons. You and I, as soon as we see a package and see the labels, we get scared and throw it away, so it has to be crystal clear that the date is an expiration date."

On Wednesday, CGF's board called on its 400 members to display only one of two label types on any given product at a time: One—displaying a "use by" date on perishable items that indicates when a food is no longer safe to eat—and the other, displaying a "best if used by" date that indicates when a food bypasses its optimal quality.

We can all hope this is a good and useful step in reducing food waste.  Will be interesting to watch for companies' responses, and whether the recommendation has impact where it counts: not in PR goodwill, but in cutting the amount of food tossed to landfills.

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Rick Shankman's picture

"We can all hope this is a

"We can all hope this is a good and useful step in reducing food waste."

Curt, this is a classic case of misdirection (distraction) and actually part of a HUGE food industry conspiracy.  This move will have no effect on food waste.  Incidentally, prepared food (packaged food) waste will have absolutely no effect on global climate change (another distraction), but nevertheless, I'll explain further below...

The prepared food industry genesis was in the 1960's.  TV dinners, etc.  It was itself a conspiracy, but that part is beyond the scope of this discussion.

Back at its inception, prepared/packaged food was concerned with shelf life and safety.  This is understandable, as it was new and the industry had to win the confidence of the public.

To that end, the industry (smartly) used natural coconut and palm oils in the processing of the foods.  Why?  Because these oils are inherently antibacterial and the highest quality oils for junk food preparation.  The problem?  It's junk food and the industry wants nothing but profits.

So, in the 1970's, a false science (anti-heart disease) campaign against coconut and palm oils was initiated and all manners of artificial oils and later (cheap) SOY oils began to be used instead.  That's where we are now, in the Age of Soy.  Soya is anti-nutritional cheap junk.

Soya does not possess the inherent antibacterial properties of natural (expensive) coconut and palm oils.  So, your food spoils much faster.  This is great for profits, as you have to buy new food to replace the spoiled food.  The mental conditioning becomes to consume the food quickly and OVEREAT, this leading to obesity and health issues.  Like with chips, the greasy and salty nature of them in your mouth is "solved" with SODA POP that cuts the grease with its acidic and carbonated properties; but no human in the world would be able to drink enough 1950's (sugar-containing) soda pop to deal with all that slime without puking, so enter 1980's HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP soda with no "puke point" in humans.  This soda pop is also designed for overconsumption.

The food industry doesn't care at all about food waste.  It just cares about profits.  So much so, that it will river boat potato chips and other junk food up the Amazon to infect indigenous peoples with its crap.

Again, this whole discussion is a distraction; as prepared food waste isn't going to put a dent in the likes of the fossil fuel industry's environmental destruction of the Planet.

If the food industry really wanted to reduce food waste, it would return to the use of expensive antibacterial coconut and palm oils.


"...consider that food not available for consumption generates 4.4 gigatons of CO2/year."

That "food not available for consumption" isn't generated by local indigenous farmers looking to feed their local populations or people cooking in those local villages.  That's institutional farming overproduction and the prepared food industry.

That's why potato chips are on their way up the Amazon... to destabilize indigenous self-sufficient cultures and infect them with Western (centralized food production) culture that supports continued spread of capitalism and the means to later control those populations through debt weapons.

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Laura Howells's picture

One thing that I which more

One thing that I wish more food stores would do is include a "use by" or "eat by" date, in addition to a "sell by" date.

Bad food poisoning experiences in the past have led me to be wary of gone off food and this definitely adds to the food waste in my household. 

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